New pink LEGOs for girls enforce Disney Princess sterotypes(Read article summary)
A new line of pink LEGOs, marketed towards girls, is just another example of the extreme gendering prevalent in children's popular culture, and enforces the Disney Princess stereotypes that have made Disney billions.
Bob Wellinski/The News Dispatch/AP
Saturday Night Liveâ€™s fake commercial, â€śChess for Girls," was hilarious in 1997â€“but today, it strikes awfully close to home. An ultra-pink chess set thatâ€™s â€śnot too hard, just pretty and funâ€ť â€“ with prancing ponies and a long-haired queen in a gown? Wow. Who knew SNL could see the future of childrenâ€™s popular culture?
Right now, everyone is talking about gender divisions in the toy aisles. Boys' toys swim in a sea of blue and black, while girlsâ€™ toys look like victims of a catastrophic Pepto-Bismol spill.
It wouldnâ€™t have been newsworthy if the typical toy store layout wasnâ€™t such a problem.
As youâ€™ve likely heard, LEGO one-upped the stakes recently by creating a reductive and offensive girlsâ€™ line of LEGOs. If you think about it, the concept of LEGOs for girls practically plagiarizes SNLâ€™s Chess for Girls. Like chess, LEGOs are enjoyable to both boys and girls. But making a new LEGO line that is pink, beauty-centric, and not too hard? Perfect!
No wonder parents and critics are upset.
In fact, it seems a movement is building, buttressed by a national dialogue about unnecessarily heightened gender divisions in childrenâ€™s popular culture. SPARK mailed LEGO more than 48,000 signatures protesting the new line in January. The numbers speak volumes.
But how did we get here? How did gender divisions become quite so divisive?
There are lots of ways to explain this history. But in my opinion, Disney â€“ one of the major producers and arbiters of childrenâ€™s culture â€“ plays a central role in it. In 1999, a Disney exec realized that by grouping Disneyâ€™s Princesses together, they might be worth more than the sum of their parts. This marketing insight has brought Disney billions in revenue. Other companies like Mattel moved quickly to cash in on the trend, fueling the princess craze.
If thereâ€™s a princess version of nearly everything, and â€śprincessâ€ť is a category that excludes boys, then gender divisions in childrenâ€™s popular culture can only be heightened. Superheroes are for everyone â€“ even if theyâ€™re â€śforâ€ť boys, girls enjoy them, too â€“ but princesses are aspirational. Only girls can become princesses, so princess culture is only for the girls. And this means that the Disney Store now gives about two-thirds of its floor space exclusively to girls, if the Boston-area Disney Store I visited with my family recently is the norm: "Cars" and "Toy Story" products largely filled the left-hand side of the store, while the center and right featured princess and nothing but princess.
When I was a kid, Disney was about Mickey and Donald and Goofy and Pluto. Oh, and Minnie and Daisy, too. These were characters all kids could enjoy. The recent devolution in childrenâ€™s culture â€“ from boys and girls having at least some shared interests, to such a divisive schism â€“ is troubling. In fact, when I assign my 19-year-old media studies students to analyze whatâ€™s happening in their local toy aisle, even they are surprised: They havenâ€™t shopped in toy aisles in nearly a decade, and though they remember some gender divisions (boysâ€™ aisles and girlsâ€™ aisles have been around for ages), they often donâ€™t remember those divisions being quite so complete.
The only way our current situation will change is if we fight back. And thatâ€™s why I created a petition about Hasbroâ€™s talking Princess Celestia toy. A television show has finally presented a princess character that appeals to boys and girls alike â€“ because sheâ€™s a leader, not a beauty object. If you agree that children need more characters like these, and that toys shouldnâ€™t reduce such characters to princess stereotypes, wonâ€™t you please sign it?
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Rebecca Hains blogs atÂ rebeccahains.wordpress.com.